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File photo: Antonio Palocci, former finance minister and presidential chief of staff in recent Workers Party (PT) governments, arrives at the Institute of Forensic Science in Curitiba, Brazil, September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer(reuters_tickers)
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Former Brazilian Finance Minister Antonio Palocci told a court hearing on Thursday that he could provide details of a political kickback scheme, which could threaten former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's chances of running in the 2018 election.
In the video of the hearing released on Thursday, Palocci made the offer directly to Judge Sergio Moro, who has overseen a sweeping three-year-old corruption investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, that has upturned Brazilian politics.
"I could immediately present all the facts, with names, addresses and operations carried out, things that will certainly be of interest to Car Wash," Palocci said in the video of the hearing.
Operation Car Wash, named for a gas station in what began as a money laundering probe in the capital Brasilia, has uncovered a bribery scheme at the highest levels of Brazilian politics in return for contracts at state-run enterprises.
Palocci, one of the closest advisers to Lula and former President Dilma Rousseff from 2003 to 2011, was jailed in September on charges he ran a bribery scheme funneling money to the Workers Party, which then ruled Brazil.
Newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported on Tuesday, without citing sources, that Palocci met with investigators in recent weeks to discuss the terms of a possible plea bargain deal to give evidence against Lula and other party leaders. Palocci's lawyer could not be reached to comment on the story.
Several polls show Lula as the favorite in voting intentions for the 2018 presidential election, but he could be barred from running if sentenced for corruption. Lula already faces five court cases related to the investigations.
Folha reported that plea bargain testimony from Palocci, once one of Brazil's most powerful politicians, could also widen the scope of investigations currently focused on engineering firms, to include banks and other corporations.
Palocci, who has not commented on the Folha story about the plea bargain, said at the hearing that he believed his revelations could give investigators grist to widen the probe.
"I believe I could open the way for what might be another year of work - but work that would be good for Brazil," Palocci said at the hearing.
(Reporting by Brad Haynes; Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione; Editing by David Gregorio)